WO2015084500A1 - Method and device for separating hydrocarbons and contaminants with a heating mechanism to destabilize and/or prevent adhesion of solids - Google Patents

Method and device for separating hydrocarbons and contaminants with a heating mechanism to destabilize and/or prevent adhesion of solids

Info

Publication number
WO2015084500A1
WO2015084500A1 PCT/US2014/061034 US2014061034W WO2015084500A1 WO 2015084500 A1 WO2015084500 A1 WO 2015084500A1 US 2014061034 W US2014061034 W US 2014061034W WO 2015084500 A1 WO2015084500 A1 WO 2015084500A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
section
zone
controlled
freeze
stream
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2014/061034
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Jaime A. VALENCIA
Harry W. Deckman
Charles J. Mart
James T. Wilkins
Paul Scott Northrop
Original Assignee
Exxonmobil Upstream Research Company
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

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Classifications

    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/06Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation
    • F25J3/063Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation characterised by the separated product stream
    • F25J3/067Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation characterised by the separated product stream separation of carbon dioxide
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B01PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL PROCESSES OR APPARATUS IN GENERAL
    • B01DSEPARATION
    • B01D3/00Distillation or related exchange processes in which liquids are contacted with gaseous media, e.g. stripping
    • B01D3/42Regulation; Control
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C07ORGANIC CHEMISTRY
    • C07CACYCLIC OR CARBOCYCLIC COMPOUNDS
    • C07C7/00Purification; Separation; Use of additives
    • C07C7/04Purification; Separation; Use of additives by distillation
    • C07C7/05Purification; Separation; Use of additives by distillation with the aid of auxiliary compounds
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L3/00Gaseous fuels; Natural gas; Synthetic natural gas obtained by processes not covered by subclass C10G, C10K; Liquefied petroleum gas
    • C10L3/06Natural gas; Synthetic natural gas obtained by processes not covered by C10G, C10K3/02 or C10K3/04
    • C10L3/10Working-up natural gas or synthetic natural gas
    • C10L3/101Removal of contaminants
    • C10L3/102Removal of contaminants of acid contaminants
    • C10L3/104Carbon dioxide
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J1/00Processes or apparatus for liquefying or solidifying gases or gaseous mixtures (not used)
    • F25J1/0002Processes or apparatus for liquefying or solidifying gases or gaseous mixtures (not used) characterised by the fluid to be liquefied
    • F25J1/0022Hydrocarbons, e.g. natural gas
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/02Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream
    • F25J3/0204Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream characterised by the feed stream
    • F25J3/0209Natural gas or substitute natural gas
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/02Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream
    • F25J3/0228Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream characterised by the separated product stream
    • F25J3/0233Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream characterised by the separated product stream separation of CnHm with 1 carbon atom or more
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/02Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream
    • F25J3/0228Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream characterised by the separated product stream
    • F25J3/0266Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by rectification, i.e. by continuous interchange of heat and material between a vapour stream and a liquid stream characterised by the separated product stream separation of carbon dioxide
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/06Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation
    • F25J3/0605Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation characterised by the feed stream
    • F25J3/061Natural gas or substitute natural gas
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/06Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation
    • F25J3/063Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation characterised by the separated product stream
    • F25J3/0635Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification by partial condensation characterised by the separated product stream separation of CnHm with 1 carbon atom or more
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J3/00Processes or apparatus for separating the constituents of gaseous or liquefied gaseous mixtures involving the use of liquefaction or solidification
    • F25J3/08Separating gaseous impurities from gases or gaseous mixtures or from liquefied gases or liquefied gaseous mixtures
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L2290/00Fuel preparation or upgrading, processes or apparatus therefore, comprising specific process steps or apparatus units
    • C10L2290/54Specific separation steps for separating fractions, components or impurities during preparation or upgrading of a fuel
    • C10L2290/543Distillation, fractionation or rectification for separating fractions, components or impurities during preparation or upgrading of a fuel
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L2290/00Fuel preparation or upgrading, processes or apparatus therefore, comprising specific process steps or apparatus units
    • C10L2290/54Specific separation steps for separating fractions, components or impurities during preparation or upgrading of a fuel
    • C10L2290/545Washing, scrubbing, stripping, scavenging for separating fractions, components or impurities during preparation or upgrading of a fuel
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L2290/00Fuel preparation or upgrading, processes or apparatus therefore, comprising specific process steps or apparatus units
    • C10L2290/58Control or regulation of the fuel preparation of upgrading process
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L2290/00Fuel preparation or upgrading, processes or apparatus therefore, comprising specific process steps or apparatus units
    • C10L2290/60Measuring or analysing fractions, components or impurities or process conditions during preparation or upgrading of a fuel
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L3/00Gaseous fuels; Natural gas; Synthetic natural gas obtained by processes not covered by subclass C10G, C10K; Liquefied petroleum gas
    • C10L3/06Natural gas; Synthetic natural gas obtained by processes not covered by C10G, C10K3/02 or C10K3/04
    • C10L3/10Working-up natural gas or synthetic natural gas
    • C10L3/101Removal of contaminants
    • C10L3/102Removal of contaminants of acid contaminants
    • CCHEMISTRY; METALLURGY
    • C10PETROLEUM, GAS OR COKE INDUSTRIES; TECHNICAL GASES CONTAINING CARBON MONOXIDE; FUELS; LUBRICANTS; PEAT
    • C10LFUELS NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; NATURAL GAS; SYNTHETIC NATURAL GAS OBTAINED BY PROCESSES NOT COVERED BY SUBCLASSES C10G, C10K; LIQUEFIED PETROLEUM GAS; ADDING MATERIALS TO FUELS OR FIRES TO REDUCE SMOKE OR UNDESIRABLE DEPOSITS OR TO FACILITATE SOOT REMOVAL; FIRELIGHTERS
    • C10L3/00Gaseous fuels; Natural gas; Synthetic natural gas obtained by processes not covered by subclass C10G, C10K; Liquefied petroleum gas
    • C10L3/06Natural gas; Synthetic natural gas obtained by processes not covered by C10G, C10K3/02 or C10K3/04
    • C10L3/10Working-up natural gas or synthetic natural gas
    • C10L3/107Limiting or prohibiting hydrate formation
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2200/00Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification
    • F25J2200/02Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification in a single pressure main column system
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2200/00Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification
    • F25J2200/30Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification using a side column in a single pressure column system
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2200/00Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification
    • F25J2200/50Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification using multiple (re-)boiler-condensers at different heights of the column
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2200/00Processes or apparatus using separation by rectification
    • F25J2200/74Refluxing the column with at least a part of the partially condensed overhead gas
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2205/00Processes or apparatus using other separation and/or other processing means
    • F25J2205/02Processes or apparatus using other separation and/or other processing means using simple phase separation in a vessel or drum
    • F25J2205/04Processes or apparatus using other separation and/or other processing means using simple phase separation in a vessel or drum in the feed line, i.e. upstream of the fractionation step
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2205/00Processes or apparatus using other separation and/or other processing means
    • F25J2205/20Processes or apparatus using other separation and/or other processing means using solidification of components
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2220/00Processes or apparatus involving steps for the removal of impurities
    • F25J2220/60Separating impurities from natural gas, e.g. mercury, cyclic hydrocarbons
    • F25J2220/66Separating acid gases, e.g. CO2, SO2, H2S or RSH
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F25REFRIGERATION OR COOLING; COMBINED HEATING AND REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS; HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; MANUFACTURE OR STORAGE OF ICE; LIQUEFACTION SOLIDIFICATION OF GASES
    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2235/00Processes or apparatus involving steps for increasing the pressure or for conveying of liquid process streams
    • F25J2235/60Processes or apparatus involving steps for increasing the pressure or for conveying of liquid process streams the fluid being (a mixture of) hydrocarbons
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
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    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2280/00Control of the process or apparatus
    • F25J2280/02Control in general, load changes, different modes ("runs"), measurements
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
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    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2280/00Control of the process or apparatus
    • F25J2280/40Control of freezing of components
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
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    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2290/00Other details not covered by groups F25J2200/00 - F25J2280/00
    • F25J2290/12Particular process parameters like pressure, temperature, ratios
    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
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    • F25JLIQUEFACTION, SOLIDIFICATION OR SEPARATION OF GASES OR GASEOUS OR LIQUEFIED GASEOUS MIXTURES BY PRESSURE AND COLD TREATMENT OR BY BRINGING THEM INTO THE SUPERCRITICAL STATE
    • F25J2290/00Other details not covered by groups F25J2200/00 - F25J2280/00
    • F25J2290/40Vertical layout or arrangement of cold equipments within in the cold box, e.g. columns, condensers, heat exchangers etc.
    • YGENERAL TAGGING OF NEW TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS; GENERAL TAGGING OF CROSS-SECTIONAL TECHNOLOGIES SPANNING OVER SEVERAL SECTIONS OF THE IPC; TECHNICAL SUBJECTS COVERED BY FORMER USPC CROSS-REFERENCE ART COLLECTIONS [XRACs] AND DIGESTS
    • Y02TECHNOLOGIES OR APPLICATIONS FOR MITIGATION OR ADAPTATION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE
    • Y02CCAPTURE, STORAGE, SEQUESTRATION OR DISPOSAL OF GREENHOUSE GASES [GHG]
    • Y02C10/00CO2 capture or storage
    • Y02C10/12Capture by rectification and condensation

Abstract

The present disclosure provides a method for separating a feed stream in a distillation tower which includes separating a feed stream in a stripper section into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream and a freezing zone vapor stream; contacting the freezing zone vapor stream in the controlled freeze zone section with a freezing zone liquid stream at a temperature and pressure at which a solid and a hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream form; directly applying heat to a controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section with a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of the controlled freeze zone wall and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall; and at least one of destabilizing and preventing adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism.

Description

METHOD AND DEVICE FOR SEPARATING HYDROCARBONS AND CONTAMINANTS WITH A HEATING MECHANISM TO DESTABILIZE AND/OR

PREVENT ADHESION OF SOLIDS CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the priority benefit of United States patent application number 61/912,986 filed December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND DEVICE FOR SEPARATING HYDROCARBONS AND CONTAMINANTS WITH A HEATING MECHANISM TO DESTABILIZE AND/OR PREVENT ADHESION OF SOLIDS, the entirety of which is incorporated by reference herein.

[0002] This application is related to but does not claim priority to U.S. Provisional patent application numbers: 61/912,957 filed December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND DEVICE FOR SEPARATING HYDROCARBONS AND CONTAMINANTS WITH A SPRAY ASSEMBLY; 62/044,770 filed September 2, 2014 entitled METHOD AND DEVICE FOR SEPARATING HYDROCARBONS AND CONTAMINANTS WITH A SPRAY ASSEMBLY; 61/912,959 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND SYSTEM OF MAINTAING A LIQUID LEVEL IN A DISTILLATION TOWER; 61/912,964 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND DEVICE FOR SEPARATING A FEED STREAM USING RADIATION DETECTORS; 61/912,970 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND SYSTEM OF DEHYDRATING A FEED STREAM PROCESSED IN A DISTILLATION TOWER; 61/912,975 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR SEPARATING A FEED STREAM WITH A FEED STREAM DISTRIBUTION MECHANISM; 61/912,978 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PREVENTING ACCUMULATION OF SOLIDS IN A DISTILLATION TOWER; 61/912,983 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD OF REMOVING SOLDS BY MODIFYING A LIQUID LEVEL IN A DISTILLATION TOWER; 61/912,984 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND SYSTEM OF MODIFYING A LIQUID LEVEL DURING START-UP OPERATIONS; 61/912,987 filed on December 6, 2013 entitled METHOD AND DEVICE FOR SEPARATING HYDROCARBONS AND CONTAMINANTS WITH A SURFACE TREATMENT MECHANISM. BACKGROUND

Fields of Disclosure

[0003] The disclosure relates generally to the field of fluid separation. More specifically, the disclosure relates to the cryogenic separation of contaminants, such as acid gas, from a hydrocarbon.

Description of Related Art

[0004] This section is intended to introduce various aspects of the art, which may be associated with the present disclosure. This discussion is intended to provide a framework to facilitate a better understanding of particular aspects of the present disclosure. Accordingly, it should be understood that this section should be read in this light, and not necessarily as admissions of prior art.

[0005] The production of natural gas hydrocarbons, such as methane and ethane, from a reservoir oftentimes carries with it the incidental production of non-hydrocarbon gases. Such gases include contaminants, such as at least one of carbon dioxide ("C02"), hydrogen sulfide ("H2S"), carbonyl sulfide, carbon disulfide and various mercaptans. When a feed stream being produced from a reservoir includes these contaminants mixed with hydrocarbons, the stream is oftentimes referred to as "sour gas."

[0006] Many natural gas reservoirs have relatively low percentages of hydrocarbons and relatively high percentages of contaminants. Contaminants may act as a diluent and lower the heat content of hydrocarbons. Some contaminants, like sulfur-bearing compounds, are noxious and may even be lethal. Additionally, in the presence of water some contaminants can become quite corrosive.

[0007] It is desirable to remove contaminants from a stream containing hydrocarbons to produce sweet and concentrated hydrocarbons. Specifications for pipeline quality natural gas typically call for a maximum of 2 - 4% CO2 and ¼ grain I¾S per 100 scf (4 ppmv) or 5 mg/Nm3 H2S. Specifications for lower temperature processes such as natural gas liquefaction plants or nitrogen rejection units typically require less than 50 ppm CO2.

[0008] The separation of contaminants from hydrocarbons is difficult and consequently significant work has been applied to the development of hydrocarbon/contaminant separation methods. These methods can be placed into three general classes: absorption by solvents (physical, chemical and hybrids), adsorption by solids, and distillation. [0009] Separation by distillation of some mixtures can be relatively simple and, as such, is widely used in the natural gas industry. However, distillation of mixtures of natural gas hydrocarbons, primarily methane, and one of the most common contaminants in natural gas, carbon dioxide, can present significant difficulties. Conventional distillation principles and conventional distillation equipment are predicated on the presence of only vapor and liquid phases throughout the distillation tower. The separation of CO2 from methane by distillation involves temperature and pressure conditions that result in solidification of CO2 if a pipeline or better quality hydrocarbon product is desired. The required temperatures are cold temperatures typically referred to as cryogenic temperatures.

[0010] Certain cryogenic distillations can overcome the above mentioned difficulties. These cryogenic distillations provide the appropriate mechanism to handle the formation and subsequent melting of solids during the separation of solid-forming contaminants from hydrocarbons. The formation of solid contaminants in equilibrium with vapor-liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons and contaminants at particular conditions of temperature and pressure takes place in a controlled freeze zone section.

[0011] Sometimes solids can adhere to an internal (e.g., controlled freeze zone wall) of the controlled freeze zone section rather than falling to the bottom of the controlled freeze zone section.

[0012] The adherence is disadvantageous. The adherence, if uncontrolled, can interfere with the proper operation of the controlled freeze zone and the effective separation of methane from the contaminants.

[0013] A need exists for improved technology to destabilize and/or prevent any adhesion of solids to surface(s) in the controlled freeze zone section.

SUMMARY

[0014] The present disclosure provides a device and method for separating contaminants from hydrocarbons and destabilizing and/or preventing the adhesion of solids to surface(s) in the controlled freeze section, among other things.

[0015] The method for separating a feed stream in a distillation tower comprises introducing a feed stream into one of a stripper section and a controlled freeze zone section of a distillation tower, the feed stream comprising a hydrocarbon and a contaminant; separating the feed stream in the stripper section into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream, comprising the contaminant, and a freezing zone vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which no solid forms; contacting the freezing zone vapor stream in the controlled freeze zone section with a freezing zone liquid stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which a solid, comprising the contaminant forms, and a vapor stream, further enriched in the hydrocarbon emerges; directly applying heat to the controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section with a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of the controlled freeze zone wall and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall; and at least one of destabilizing and preventing adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism.

[0016] The distillation tower that separates a contaminant in a feed stream from a hydrocarbon in the feed stream comprises a stripper section constructed and arranged to separate a feed stream, comprising a contaminant and a hydrocarbon, into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream, comprising the contaminant, and a freezing zone vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which no solids form; a controlled freeze zone section comprising: a melt tray assembly at a bottom section of the controlled freeze zone section that is constructed and arranged to melt a solid, comprising the contaminant, formed in the controlled freeze zone section; a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of a controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall that at least one of destabilizes and prevents adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall, wherein the heating mechanism is in an upper section of the controlled freeze zone section that directly abuts and is separate from the bottom section.

[0017] A method for producing hydrocarbons may comprise extracting a feed stream comprising a hydrocarbon and a contaminant from a reservoir; introducing the feed stream into one of a stripper section and a controlled freeze zone section of a distillation tower; separating the feed stream in the stripper section into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream, comprising the contaminant, and a freezing zone vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which no solid forms; contacting the freezing zone vapor stream in the controlled freeze zone section with a freezing zone liquid stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which the freezing zone vapor stream forms a solid, comprising the contaminant, and a hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon; directly applying heat to a controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section with a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of the controlled freeze zone wall and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall; at least one of destabilizing and preventing adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism; removing the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream from the distillation tower; and producing the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream extracted from the distillation tower.

[0018] The foregoing has broadly outlined the features of the present disclosure so that the detailed description that follows may be better understood. Additional features will also be described herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] These and other features, aspects and advantages of the disclosure will become apparent from the following description, appending claims and the accompanying drawings, which are briefly described below.

[0020] Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of a tower with sections within a single vessel.

[0021] Figure 2 is a schematic diagram of a tower with sections within multiple vessels.

[0022] Figure 3 is a schematic diagram of a tower with sections within a single vessel.

[0023] Figure 4 is a schematic diagram of a tower with sections within multiple vessels.

[0024] Figure 5 is a schematic, cross-sectional diagram of the controlled freeze zone section of a distillation tower.

[0025] Figure 6 is a schematic diagram of section 38 of Figure 5 when the heating mechanism comprises a heating coil.

[0026] Figure 7 is a schematic diagram of section 38 of Figure 5 when the heating mechanism comprises an electrical conductor.

[0027] Figure 8 is a flowchart of a method within the scope of the present disclosure.

[0028] It should be noted that the figures are merely examples and no limitations on the scope of the present disclosure are intended thereby. Further, the figures are generally not drawn to scale, but are drafted for purposes of convenience and clarity in illustrating various aspects of the disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0029] For the purpose of promoting an understanding of the principles of the disclosure, reference will now be made to the features illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the disclosure is thereby intended. Any alterations and further modifications, and any further applications of the principles of the disclosure as described herein are contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the disclosure relates. It will be apparent to those skilled in the relevant art that some features that are not relevant to the present disclosure may not be shown in the drawings for the sake of clarity.

[0030] As referenced in this application, the terms "stream," "gas stream," "vapor stream," and "liquid stream" refer to different stages of a feed stream as the feed stream is processed in a distillation tower that separates methane, the primary hydrocarbon in natural gas, from contaminants. Although the phrases "gas stream," "vapor stream," and "liquid stream," refer to situations where a gas, vapor, and liquid is mainly present in the stream, respectively, there may be other phases also present within the stream. For example, a gas may also be present in a "liquid stream." In some instances, the terms "gas stream" and "vapor stream" may be used interchangeably.

[0031] The disclosure relates to a system and method for separating a feed stream in a distillation tower. The system and method may destabilize solids that may adhere and/or accumulate in the controlled freeze zone section. The system and method may prevent solids that may adhere and accumulate in the controlled freeze zone section from adhering and/or accumulating. Figures 1-8 of the disclosure display various aspects of the system and method.

[0032] The system and method may separate a feed stream having methane and contaminants. The system may comprise a distillation tower 104, 204 (Figures 1-4). The distillation tower 104, 204 may separate the contaminants from the methane.

[0033] The distillation tower 104, 204 may be separated into three functional sections: a lower section 106, a middle controlled freeze zone section 108 and an upper section 110. The distillation tower 104, 204 may incorporate three functional sections when the upper section 110 is needed and/or desired. The distillation tower 104, 204 may incorporate only two functional sections when the upper section 110 is not needed and/or desired. When the distillation tower does not include an upper section 110, a portion of vapor leaving the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may be extracted from the distillation tower 104, 204 as line 21 for disposing the vapors off the middle controlled freeze zone section while they are off specification with too high a contaminant content or for use as fuel or for other purposes, with the remaining vapor not extracted in line 14. Note that line 23 and line 14 are directly connected in Figures 2 and 4 in this instance. Line 14 enters the condenser 122 where a portion of the vapor may be condensed and returned as a liquid spray stream via a spray assembly 129. Moreover, lines 18 and 20 in Figures 1 and 3 or line 18 in Figures 2 and 4 may be eliminated, elements 124 and 126 in Figures 1 and 3 may be one and the same, and elements 150 and 128 in Figures 1 and 3 may be one and the same. The stream in line 14 in Figures 1 and 3, now taking the vapors leaving the middle controlled freeze section 108, directs these vapors to the condenser 122.

[0034] The lower section 106 may also be referred to as a stripper section. The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may also be referred to as a controlled freeze zone section. The upper section 110 may also be referred to as a rectifier section.

[0035] The sections of the distillation tower 104 may be housed within a single vessel (Figures 1 and 3). For example, the lower section 106, the middle controlled freeze zone section 108, and the upper section 110 may be housed within a single vessel 164.

[0036] The sections of the distillation tower 204 may be housed within a plurality of vessels to form a split-tower configuration (Figures 2 and 4). Each of the vessels may be separate from the other vessels. Piping and/or another suitable mechanism may connect one vessel to another vessel. In this instance, the lower section 106, middle controlled freeze zone section 108 and upper section 110 may be housed within two or more vessels. For example, as shown in Figures 2 and 4, the upper section 110 may be housed within a single vessel 254 and the lower and middle controlled freeze zone sections 106, 108 may be housed within a single vessel 264. When this is the case, a liquid stream exiting the upper section 110, may exit through a liquid outlet bottom 260. The liquid outlet bottom 260 is at the bottom of the upper section 110. Although not shown, each of the sections may be housed within its own separate vessel, or one or more section may be housed within separate vessels, or the upper and middle controlled freeze zone sections may be housed within a single vessel and the lower section may be housed within a single vessel, etc. When sections of the distillation tower are housed within vessels, the vessels may be side-by-side along a horizontal line and/or above each other along a vertical line.

[0037] The split-tower configuration may be beneficial in situations where the height of the distillation tower, motion considerations, and/or transportation issues, such as for remote locations, need to be considered. This split-tower configuration allows for the independent operation of one or more sections. For example, when the upper section is housed within a single vessel and the lower and middle controlled freeze zone sections are housed within a single vessel, independent generation of reflux liquids using a substantially contaminant-free, largely hydrocarbon stream from a packed gas pipeline or an adjacent hydrocarbon line, may occur in the upper section. And the reflux may be used to cool the upper section, establish an appropriate temperature profile in the upper section, and/or build up liquid inventory at the bottom of the upper section to serve as an initial source of spray liquids for the middle controlled freeze zone section. Moreover, the middle controlled freeze zone and lower sections may be independently prepared by chilling the feed stream, feeding it to the optimal location be that in the lower section or in the middle controlled freeze zone section, generating liquids for the lower and the middle controlled freeze zone sections, and disposing the vapors off the middle controlled freeze zone section while they are off specification with too high a contaminant content. Also, liquid from the upper section may be intermittently or continuously sprayed, building up liquid level in the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section and bringing the contaminant content in the middle controlled freeze zone section down and near steady state level so that the two vessels may be connected to send the vapor stream from the middle controlled freeze zone section to the upper section, continuously spraying liquid from the bottom of the upper section into the middle controlled freeze zone section and stabilizing operations into steady state conditions. The split tower configuration may utilize a sump of the upper section as a liquid receiver for the pump 128, therefore obviating the need for a liquid receiver 126 in Figures 1 and 3.

[0038] The system may also include a heat exchanger 100 (Figures 1-4). The feed stream 10 may enter the heat exchanger 100 before entering the distillation tower 104, 204. The feed stream 10 may be cooled within the heat exchanger 100. The heat exchanger 100 helps drop the temperature of the feed stream 10 to a level suitable for introduction into the distillation tower 104, 204.

[0039] The system may include an expander device 102 (Figures 1-4). The feed stream 10 may enter the expander device 102 before entering the distillation tower 104, 204. The feed stream 10 may be expanded in the expander device 102 after exiting the heat exchanger 100. The expander device 102 helps drop the temperature of the feed stream 10 to a level suitable for introduction into the distillation tower 104, 204. The expander device 102 may be any suitable device, such as a valve. If the expander device 102 is a valve, the valve may be any suitable valve that may aid in cooling the feed stream 10 before it enters the distillation tower 104, 204. For example, the expander device 102 may comprise a Joule- Thompson (J-T) valve. [0040] The system may include a feed separator 103 (Figures 3-4). The feed stream may enter the feed separator before entering the distillation tower 104, 204. The feed separator may separate a feed stream having a mixed liquid and vapor stream into a liquid stream and a vapor stream. Lines 12 may extend from the feed separator to the distillation tower 104, 204. One of the lines 12 may receive the vapor stream from the feed separator. Another one of the lines 12 may receive the liquid stream from the feed separator. Each of the lines 12 may extend to the same and/or different sections (i.e. middle controlled freeze zone, and lower sections) of the distillation tower 104, 204. The expander device 102 may or may not be downstream of the feed separator 103. The expander device 102 may comprise a plurality of expander devices 102 such that each line 12 has an expander device 102.

[0041] The system may include a dehydration unit 261 (Figures 1-4). The feed stream 10 may enter the dehydration unit 261 before entering the distillation tower 104, 204. The feed stream 10 enters the dehydration unit 261 before entering the heat exchanger 100 and/or the expander device 102. The dehydration unit 261 removes water from the feed stream 10 to prevent water from later presenting a problem in the heat exchanger 100, expander device 102, feed separator 103, or distillation tower 104, 204. The water can present a problem by forming a separate water phase (i.e., ice and/or hydrate) that plugs lines, equipment or negatively affects the distillation process. The dehydration unit 261 dehydrates the feed stream to a dew point sufficiently low to ensure a separate water phase does not form at any point downstream during the rest of the process. The dehydration unit may be any suitable dehydration mechanism, such as a molecular sieve or a glycol dehydration unit.

[0042] The system may include a filtering unit (not shown). The feed stream 10 may enter the filtering unit before entering the distillation tower 104, 204. The filtering unit may remove undesirable contaminants from the feed stream before the feed stream enters the distillation tower 104, 204. Depending on what contaminants are to be removed, the filtering unit may be before or after the dehydration unit 261 and/or before or after the heat exchanger 100.

[0043] The system may include a line 12 (Figures 1-4). The line may also be referred to as an inlet channel 12. The feed stream 10 may be introduced into the distillation tower 104, 204 through the line 12. The line 12 may extend to the lower section 106 or the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 of the distillation tower 104, 204. For example, the line 12 may extend to the lower section 106 such that the feed stream 10 may enter the lower section 106 of the distillation tower 104, 204 (Figures 1-4). The line 12 may directly or indirectly extend to the lower section 106 or the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The line 12 may extend to an outer surface of the distillation tower 104, 204 before entering the distillation tower.

[0044] The lower section 106 is constructed and arranged to separate the feed stream 10 into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream (i.e., liquid stream) and a freezing zone vapor stream (i.e., vapor stream). The lower section 106 separates the feed stream at a temperature and pressure at which no solids form. The liquid stream may comprise a greater quantity of contaminants than of methane. The vapor stream may comprise a greater quantity of methane than of contaminants. In any case, the vapor stream is lighter than the liquid stream. As a result, the vapor stream rises from the lower section 106 and the liquid stream falls to the bottom of the lower section 106.

[0045] The lower section 106 may include and/or connect to equipment that separates the feed stream. The equipment may comprise any suitable equipment for separating methane from contaminants, such as one or more packed sections 181, or one or more distillation trays with perforations, downcomers, and weirs (Figures 1-4).

[0046] The equipment may include components that apply heat to the stream to form the vapor stream and the liquid stream. For example, the equipment may comprise a first reboiler 112 that applies heat to the stream. The first reboiler 112 may be located outside of the distillation tower 104, 204. The equipment may also comprise a second reboiler 172 that applies heat to the stream. The second reboiler 172 may be located outside of the distillation tower 104, 204. Line 117 may lead from the distillation tower to the second reboiler 172. Line 17 may lead from the second reboiler 172 to the distillation tower. Additional reboilers, set up similarly to the second reboiler described above, may also be used.

[0047] The first reboiler 112 may apply heat to the liquid stream that exits the lower section 106 through a liquid outlet 160 of the lower section 106. The liquid stream may travel from the liquid outlet 160 through line 28 to reach the first reboiler 112 (Figures 1-4). The amount of heat applied to the liquid stream by the first reboiler 112 can be increased to separate more methane from contaminants. The more heat applied by the first reboiler 112 to the stream, the more methane separated from the liquid contaminants, though more contaminants will also be vaporized.

[0048] The first reboiler 112 may also apply heat to the stream within the distillation tower 104, 204. Specifically, the heat applied by the first reboiler 112 warms up the lower section 106. This heat travels up the lower section 106 and supplies heat to warm solids entering a melt tray assembly 139 (Figures 1-4) of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 so that the solids form a liquid and/or slurry mix.

[0049] The second reboiler 172 applies heat to the stream within the lower section 106. This heat is applied closer to the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 than the heat applied by the first reboiler 112. As a result, the heat applied by the second reboiler 172 reaches the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 faster than the heat applied by the first reboiler 112. The second reboiler 172 also helps with energy integration.

[0050] The equipment may include a chimney assembly 135 (Figures 1-4). While falling to the bottom of the lower section 106, the liquid stream may encounter one or more of the chimney assemblies 135.

[0051] Each chimney assembly 135 includes a chimney tray 131 that collects the liquid stream within the lower section 106. The liquid stream that collects on the chimney tray 131 may be fed to the second reboiler 172. After the liquid stream is heated in the second reboiler 172, the stream may return to the middle controlled freeze zone section 106 to supply heat to the middle controlled freeze zone section 106 and/or the melt tray assembly 139. Unvaporized stream exiting the second reboiler 172 may be fed back to the distillation tower 104, 204 below the chimney tray 131. Vapor stream exiting the second reboiler 172 may be routed under or above the chimney tray 131 when the vapor stream enters the distillation tower 104, 204.

[0052] The chimney tray 131 may include one or more chimneys 137. The chimney 137 serves as a channel that the vapor stream in the lower section 106 traverses. The vapor stream travels through an opening in the chimney tray 131 at the bottom of the chimney 137 to the top of the chimney 137. The opening is closer to the bottom of the lower section 106 than it is to the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The top is closer to the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 than it is to the bottom of the lower section 106.

[0053] Each chimney 137 has attached to it a chimney cap 133. The chimney cap 133 covers a chimney top opening 138 of the chimney 137. The chimney cap 133 prevents the liquid stream from entering the chimney 137. The vapor stream exits the chimney assembly 135 via the chimney top opening 138.

[0054] After falling to the bottom of the lower section 106, the liquid stream exits the distillation tower 104, 204 through the liquid outlet 160. The liquid outlet 160 is within the lower section 106 (Figures 1-4). The liquid outlet 160 may be located at the bottom of the lower section 106.

[0055] After exiting through the liquid outlet 160, the feed stream may travel via line 28 to the first reboiler 112. The feed stream may be heated by the first reboiler 112 and vapor may then re-enter the lower section 106 through line 30. Unvaporized liquid may continue out of the distillation process via line 24.

[0056] The system may include an expander device 114 (Figures 1-4). After entering line 24, the heated liquid stream may be expanded in the expander device 114. The expander device 114 may be any suitable device, such as a valve. The valve 114 may be any suitable valve, such as a J-T valve.

[0057] The system may include a heat exchanger 116 (Figures 1-4). The liquid stream heated by the first reboiler 112 may be cooled or heated by the heat exchanger 116. The heat exchanger 116 may be a direct heat exchanger or an indirect heat exchanger. The heat exchanger 116 may comprise any suitable heat exchanger.

[0058] The vapor stream in the lower section 106 rises from the lower section 106 to the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 is constructed and arranged to separate the feed stream 10 introduced into the middle controlled freeze zone section, or into the top of lower section 106, into a solid and a vapor stream. The solid may be comprised more of contaminants than of methane. The vapor stream (i.e., methane-enriched vapor stream) may comprise more methane than contaminants.

[0059] The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 includes a lower section 40 and an upper section 39 (Figure 5). The lower section 40 is below the upper section 39. The lower section 40 directly abuts the upper section 39. The lower section 40 is primarily but not exclusively a heating section of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The upper section 39 is primarily but not exclusively a cooling section of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The temperature and pressure of the upper section 39 are chosen so that the solid can form in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0060] The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may comprise a melt tray assembly 139 that is maintained in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 (Figures 1-4). The melt tray assembly 139 is within the lower section 40 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The melt tray assembly 139 is not within the upper section 39 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0061] The melt tray assembly 139 is constructed and arranged to melt a solid formed in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. When the warm vapor stream rises from the lower section 106 to the middle controlled freeze zone section 108, the vapor stream immediately encounters the melt tray assembly 139 and supplies heat to melt the solids. The melt tray assembly 139 may comprise at least one of a melt tray 118, a bubble cap 132, a liquid 130 and heat mechanism(s) 134.

[0062] The melt tray 118 may collect a liquid and/or slurry mix. The melt tray 118 divides at least a portion of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 from the lower section 106. The melt tray 118 is at the bottom 45 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0063] One or more bubble caps 132 may act as a channel for the vapor stream rising from the lower section 106 to the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The bubble cap 132 may provide a path for the vapor stream up the riser 140 and then down and around the riser 140 to the melt tray 118. The riser 140 is covered by a cap 141. The cap 141 prevents the liquid 130 from travelling into the riser and it also helps prevent solids from travelling into the riser 140. The vapor stream's traversal through the bubble cap 132 allows the vapor stream to transfer heat to the liquid 130 within the melt tray assembly 139.

[0064] One or more heat mechanisms 134 may further heat up the liquid 130 to facilitate melting of the solids into a liquid and/or slurry mix. The heat mechanism(s) 134 may be located anywhere within the melt tray assembly 139. For example, as shown in Figures 1-4, a heat mechanism 134 may be located around bubble caps 132. The heat mechanism 134 may be any suitable mechanism, such as a heat coil. The heat source of the heat mechanism 134 may be any suitable heat source.

[0065] The liquid 130 in the melt tray assembly 139 is heated by the vapor stream. The liquid 130 may also be heated by the one or more heat mechanisms 134. The liquid 130 helps melt the solids formed in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 into a liquid and/or slurry mix. Specifically, the heat transferred by the vapor stream heats up the liquid, thereby enabling the heat to melt the solids. The liquid 130 is at a level sufficient to melt the solids.

[0066] While in the liquid 130, hydrocarbons may be separated from the contaminants. The hydrocarbons separated from the contaminants may form part of the vapor stream (i.e., the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream), and may rise from the lower section 40 to the upper section 39 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0067] The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may include a heating mechanism 36, 136. The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 (Figure 5) of a controlled freeze zone wall 46 (Figure 5) and a controlled freeze zone external surface 47 (Figures 5-7) of the controlled freeze zone wall 46.

[0068] The controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 is the inside surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 (Figure 5). The controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 may not be the innermost inside surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 when the heating mechanism is coupled to the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31. The heating mechanism may be the innermost inside surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0069] The controlled freeze zone external surface 47 is the outside surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 (Figure 5). The controlled freeze zone external surface 47 may not be the outermost surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0070] Insulation 34 and its cladding 35 may be on top of the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 (Figure 5). The insulation 34 and its cladding 35 may be the outermost surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The insulation 34 may be on top of the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 such that the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 may be on an outer surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0071] The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be controlled in a manner to provide optimal amount of heat to destabilize and/or prevent adhesion of solids in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be controlled in a manner to prevent any adverse effects from excessive heat input into the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. In essence, the coupling is controlled such that heat emitted by the heating mechanism 36, 136 is localized to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 where solids adhere.

[0072] To provide an optimal amount of heat, the heating mechanism 36, 136 may be controlled by a temperature controller or by an electrical power controller. The temperature controller controls the temperature of the heating mechanism 36, 136. The electrical power controller controls the electrical power of the heating mechanism 36, 136.

[0073] The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be above and/or below the uppermost portion of the melt tray assembly 139 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be in the uppermost section 39 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0074] The heating mechanism 36, 136 may comprise one or more heating mechanisms 36, 136. For example, as shown in Figures 5-7, the heating mechanism 36, 136 may comprise three heating mechanisms. Each of the heating mechanisms 36, 136 may be directly adjacent to another of the heating mechanisms. One or more of the heating mechanisms 36, 136 may be within a heating zone of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. Each of the heating mechanisms 36, 136 within the heating zone is responsible for heating the portion of the controlled freeze zone wall 46 within the heating zone. There may be a plurality of heating zones.

[0075] When the heating mechanism 36, 136 comprises multiple heating mechanisms, one or more of the heating mechanisms may or may not be connected together. When heating mechanisms are connected, the heating mechanisms may be operated together. When heating mechanisms are not connected, the heating mechanisms may be operated independently. The independent operation of heating mechanisms may allow for optimal heating control of one or more heating zones of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The independent operation of heating mechanisms may allow less total heating of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108, thereby improving the efficiency of the distillation tower 104, 204. When the heating mechanisms are connected, the heating mechanisms may be operated dependently. The dependent operation of the heating mechanisms may allow for the heating mechanisms to be operated more simplistically than independent operation of the heating mechanism.

[0076] The amount and/or size of heating mechanisms 36, 136 in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may depend on a variety of factors. The factors may include the size of the distillation tower 104, 204, the thickness of the controlled freeze zone wall 46, the temperature of the liquid spray stream being sprayed from the spray assembly 129, the flow rate of the feed stream 10, and/or the temperature outside of the distillation tower 104, 204. The more feed stream 10 that enters the distillation tower 104, 204, the more liquid spray stream sprayed. The thicker the controlled freeze zone wall 46 and/or lower the temperature outside of the distillation tower 104, 204, the more heat the heating mechanism 36, 136 may need to produce.

[0077] The heating mechanism 36, 136 destabilizes and/or prevents adhesion of the solids to the controlled freeze zone wall 46. When fully heated, the temperature of the heating mechanism 36, 136 is above the solidification temperature of the solid. Consequently, the ability of the solid to accumulate and/or adhere to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 is reduced because the adhesion of the solids to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 is prevented and/or adhered solids are destabilized by the heating mechanism 36, 136. To the extent that any solid has adhered to the controlled freeze zone wall 46, such as before the heating mechanism 36, 136 is turned on or has heated up to be a temperature above the solidification temperature of the solid, or because of an operational upset, the heating mechanism 36, 136 causes the solid to detach from the controlled freeze zone wall 46 after the heating mechanism 36, 136 is at a temperature above the solidification temperature of the solid.

[0078] The heating mechanism 36, 136 may completely extend around at least one of an internal circumference 49 of the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 and an external circumference 51 of the controlled freeze zone external surface 47. Alternatively, the heating mechanism 36, 136 may extend around a portion of at least one of the internal circumference 49 and the external circumference 51. The amount of the internal or external circumference that the heating mechanism 36, 136 extends around depends on the amount of the controlled freeze zone wall 46 heated by the heating mechanism 36, 136.

[0079] The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be any suitable heating mechanism 36, 136. For example, the heating mechanism 36, 136 may be one of a coil 42 (Figure 6) and an electrical conductor 43 (Figure 7). When the heating mechanism 36, 136 is coupled to the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31, the heating mechanism 36, 136 may be any source of heat that can be safely deployed inside a distillation tower without, for example, being a potential source of combustion.

[0080] When the heating mechanism 36, 136 is a coil, the coil 42 may receive a fluid at a temperature above the solidification temperature of the solid. The fluid within the coil 42 transfers heat to at least one of the controlled freeze zone wall 46, the inside of the upper section 39 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108, and the liquid on the melt tray 118. The transferred heat destabilizes and/or prevents the adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall 46. The fluid within the coil 42 directly transfers heat to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 when the coil 42 is coupled to the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 or the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31. When the heating mechanism 36, 136 is coupled to the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31, the heating mechanism 36, 136 is a coil 42 to avoid the potential of a fire occurring inside the distillation tower 104, 204. The fluid within the coil may be any suitable fluid. For example, the fluid may be any fluid whose inlet temperature and/or flow rate can be controlled, and whose freezing point is substantially lower than that of the freezing CO2. Examples of fluid include, but are not limited to, propane, methanol, and/or other commercially-available low-melting temperature heat transfer fluids.

[0081] When the heating mechanism 36, 136 is an electrical conductor 43, the electrical conductor operates at a temperature above the solidification temperature of the solid. The electrical conductor 43 may be any suitable electrical conductor 43. For example, the electrical conductor 43 may comprise aluminum solid alloy or copper. The heating mechanism 36, 136 may be an electrical conductor 43 when the heating mechanism 36, 136 is coupled to the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 and not the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 to avoid the potential of a fire occurring inside the distillation tower.

[0082] A certain amount of heat may be applied by the heating mechanism 36, 136 to ensure destabilization of solids and/or to prevent adhesion of solids within the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The certain amount of heat is enough heat to bring an internal surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 to a temperature slightly above the freezing point of CO2. The certain amount of heat is not excessive so as to not to impact negatively the normal operation of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0083] Previous technology did not supply heat by a heating mechanism 36, 136 within a middle controlled freeze zone section 108 because it was not expected that solids would adhere to the middle controlled freeze zone section. Instead it was expected that solids would fall to the melt tray assembly 139 without adhering to the middle controlled freeze zone section. It was also not expected that the elements within the middle controlled freeze zone section would interfere with the pathway of the solids such that the solids would adhere to the middle controlled freeze zone section instead of falling to the melt tray assembly 139.

[0084] A temperature of the heating mechanism 36, 136 and/or the controlled freeze zone wall 46 may be detected with a temperature sensor 142, 243 (Figures 6-7). When the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 includes multiple heating mechanisms 36, 136, the temperature of one or more of the heating mechanism 36, 136 may be detected with the temperature sensors.

[0085] The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may include the temperature sensor 142, 243. The temperature sensor 142, 243 may be on any surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. For example, the temperature sensor may be at least one of coupled to the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 (Figure 5), the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 and the insulation 34. Surfaces of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 include the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31, the controlled freeze zone external surface 47, the insulation 34, surfaces of the spray assembly 129, surfaces of the melt tray assembly 139, etc. The temperature sensor 142, 243 may be within at least one of the lower section 40 and the upper section 39 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. Temperature sensors may be spaced at intervals throughout the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0086] The temperature sensor 142, 243 detects temperature at and/or around the area surrounding the temperature sensor 142, 243. A baseline temperature for each temperature sensor 142, 243 is determined while the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 is properly functioning. A temperature deviation outside of an expected temperature range of the temperature detected by the temperature sensor 142, 243 (i.e., the detected temperature) from the baseline temperature may indicate that the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 is not properly functioning. The temperature deviation may be about 2 to 10 degrees C or 2 to 10 degrees C.

[0087] The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may be deemed to be not properly functioning if one or more of a variety of circumstances occur. The variety of circumstances may include if solids build-up on the controlled freeze zone wall 46, if the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 is too warm to form solids, if the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 is too cold to melt the solids in the melt tray assembly 139, etc. For example, if the temperature sensor 142, 243 is coupled to the controlled freeze zone external surface 47 within the upper section 39 of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 then the temperature sensor 142, 243 is expected to detect a fairly cold temperature that is close to the actual temperature of the liquid spray stream within the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. If the temperature sensor 142, 243 detects a rise in temperature from that expected of the actual temperature of the liquid spray stream, then the rise in temperature may indicate that solids have built-up on the controlled freeze zone wall 46. The solid acts as an insulator so solid build-up on the controlled freeze zone wall 46 is determined when there is an unexpected rise in temperature read by the temperature sensor 142, 243.

[0088] As it relates to the heating mechanism, the detected temperature helps determine whether the heating mechanism 36, 136 is working in a manner to destabilize and/or prevent adhesion of solid on the controlled freeze zone wall 46. If the temperature detected by the temperature sensor 142, 243 falls outside of the expected temperature range, the temperature sensor 142, 243 may indicate that the heating mechanism 36, 136 is not working in a manner to destabilize and/or prevent adhesion of solid on the controlled freeze zone wall 46. In this instance, the heating mechanism 36, 136 may be manipulated to apply more heat to the controlled freeze zone wall 46. In addition or alternatively, measures may be taken to destabilize and/or prevent adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall 46. The measures may include at least one of (a) applying a treatment mechanism and (b) using a modified spray assembly, such as those described in the applications entitled "Method and Device for Separating Hydrocarbons and Contaminants with a Surface Treatment Mechanism" (USSN 61/912,987) and "Method and Device for Separating Hydrocarbons and Contaminants with a Spray Assembly," (USSN 61/912,957) respectively, each by Jaime Valencia, et al. and filed on the same day as the instant application.

[0089] The temperature sensor 142, 243 may be any suitable temperature sensor. For example, the temperature sensor may comprise a thermocouple, platinum resistance thermometer, RTD and/or thermistor.

[0090] The temperature sensor 142, 243 may comprise a plurality of temperature sensors 142, 243. Each of the plurality of temperature sensors 142, 243 may be coupled to the same or different surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. One or more of the temperature sensors 142, 243 may comprise an array of temperature sensors. One or more of the temperature sensors may be coupled to a surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 at the same or different elevation of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. While the temperature sensor 142, 243 is generally referred to as part of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108, a temperature sensor 142, 243 could be included in one or more of the lower section 106 and the upper section 110.

[0091] When the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 includes a heating mechanism 36, 136, the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 may not have a treatment mechanism, such as the treatment mechanism described in the application entitled "Method and Device for Separating Hydrocarbons and Contaminants with a Surface Treatment Mechanism" (USSN 61/912,987) by Jaime Valencia, et al and filed on the same day as the instant application. The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 including the heating mechanism 36, 136 may not use the treatment mechanism because the heating mechanism 36, 136 may adequately destabilize and/or prevent the adhesion of solids to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 without also being treated by the treatment mechanism. Alternatively, the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 including the heating mechanism 36, 136 may have the controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 treated with the treatment mechanism. Having the heating mechanism 36, 136 and controlled freeze zone internal surface 31 treated with the treatment mechanism may allow for a reduced energy input.

[0092] The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 may also comprise a spray assembly 129. The spray assembly 129 cools the vapor stream that rises from the lower section 40. The spray assembly 129 sprays liquid, which is cooler than the vapor stream, on the vapor stream to cool the vapor stream. The spray assembly 129 is within the upper section 39. The spray assembly 129 is not within the lower section 40. The spray assembly 129 is above the melt tray assembly 139. In other words, the melt tray assembly 139 is below the spray assembly 129.

[0093] The spray assembly 129 includes one or more spray nozzles 120 (Figures 1-4). Each spray nozzle 120 sprays liquid on the vapor stream. The spray assembly 129 may also include a spray pump 128 (Figures 1-4) that pumps the liquid. Instead of a spray pump 128, gravity may induce flow in the liquid.

[0094] The liquid sprayed by the spray assembly 129 contacts the vapor stream at a temperature and pressure at which solids form. Solids, containing mainly contaminants, form when the sprayed liquid contacts the vapor stream, 502 (Figure 8). The solids fall toward the melt tray assembly 139.

[0095] The temperature in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 cools down as the vapor stream travels from the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 to the top of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The methane in the vapor stream rises from the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 to the upper section 110. Some contaminants may remain in the methane and also rise. The contaminants in the vapor stream tend to condense or solidify with the colder temperatures and fall to the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108.

[0096] The solids form the liquid and/or slurry mix when in the liquid 130. Some of the liquid and/or slurry mix flows from the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 to the lower section 106. This liquid and/or slurry mix flows from the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 to the top of the lower section 106 via a line 22 (Figures 1- 4). The line 22 may be an exterior line. The line 22 may extend from the distillation tower 104, 204. The line 22 may extend from the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The line may extend to the lower section 106. The line 22 may extend from an outer surface of the distillation tower 104, 204.

[0097] The vapor stream that rises in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 and does not form solids or otherwise fall to the bottom of the middle controlled freeze zone section 108, rises to the upper section 110. The upper section 110 operates at a temperature and pressure and contaminant concentration at which no solid forms. The upper section 110 is constructed and arranged to cool the vapor stream to separate the methane from the contaminants. Reflux in the upper section 110 cools the vapor stream. The reflux is introduced into the upper section 110 via line 18. Line 18 may extend to the upper section 110. Line 18 may extend from an outer surface of the distillation tower 104, 204.

[0098] After contacting the reflux in the upper section 110, the feed stream forms a vapor stream and a liquid stream. The vapor stream mainly comprises methane. The liquid stream comprises relatively more contaminants. The vapor stream rises in the upper section 110 and the liquid falls to a bottom of the upper section 110.

[0099] To facilitate separation of the methane from the contaminants when the stream contacts the reflux, the upper section 110 may include one or more mass transfer devices 176. Each mass transfer device 176 helps separate the methane from the contaminants. Each mass transfer device 176 may comprise any suitable separation device, such as a tray with perforations, or a section of random or structured packing to facilitate contact of the vapor and liquid phases.

[0100] After rising, the vapor stream may exit the distillation tower 104, 204 through line 14. The line 14 may emanate from an upper part of the upper section 110. The line 14 may extend from an outer surface of the upper section 110.

jOlOl] From line 14, the vapor stream may enter a condenser 122. The condenser 122 cools the vapor stream to form a cooled stream. The condenser 122 at least partially condenses the stream.

[Θ1Θ2] After exiting the condenser 122, the cooled stream may enter a separator 124. The separator 124 separates the vapor stream into liquid and vapor streams. The separator may be any suitable separator that can separate a stream into liquid and vapor streams, such as a reflux drum.

|0103] Once separated, the vapor stream may exit the separator 124 as sales product. The sales product may travel through line 16 for subsequent sale to a pipeline and/or condensation to be liquefied natural gas.

[0104] Once separated, the liquid stream may return to the upper section 110 through line 18 as the reflux. The reflux may travel to the upper section 110 via any suitable mechanism, such as a reflux pump 150 (Figures 1 and 3) or gravity (Figures 2 and 4).

[0105] The liquid stream (i.e., freezing zone liquid stream) that falls to the bottom of the upper section 110 collects at the bottom of the upper section 110. The liquid may collect on tray 183 (Figures 1 and 3) or at the bottommost portion of the upper section 110 (Figures 2 and 4). The collected liquid may exit the distillation tower 104, 204 through line 20 (Figures 1 and 3) or outlet 260 (Figures 2 and 4). The line 20 may emanate from the upper section 110. The line 20 may emanate from a bottom end of the upper section 110. The line 20 may extend from an outer surface of the upper section 110.

[0106] The line 20 and/or outlet 260 connect to a line 41. The line 41 leads to the spray assembly 129 in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108. The line 41 emanates from the holding vessel 126. The line 41 may extend to an outer surface of the middle controlled freeze zone section 110.

[0107] The line 20 and/or outlet 260 may directly or indirectly (Figures 1-4) connect to the line 41. When the line 20 and/or outlet 260 directly connect to the line 41, the liquid spray may be sent to the spray nozzle(s) 120 via any suitable mechanism, such as the spray pump 128 or gravity. When the line 20 and/or outlet 260 indirectly connect to the line 41, the lines 20, 41 and/or outlet 260 and line 41 may directly connect to a holding vessel 126 (Figures 1 and 3). The holding vessel 126 may house at least some of the liquid spray before it is sprayed by the nozzle(s). The liquid spray may be sent from the holding vessel 126 to the spray nozzle(s) 120 via any suitable mechanism, such as the spray pump 128 (Figures 1- 4) or gravity. The holding vessel 126 may be needed when there is not a sufficient amount of liquid stream at the bottom of the upper section 110 to feed the spray nozzles 120.

[0108] Persons skilled in the technical field will readily recognize that in practical applications, the use of one or more heating mechanisms to destabilize and/or prevent the adhesion of solids to a surface may be used in other apparatuses and/or systems beside distillation towers. For example, one or more heating mechanisms may be used in a physical removal process.

[0109] As shown in Figure 8, a method for separating a feed stream 10 in the distillation tower 104, 204 and/or producing hydrocarbons may include introducing 500 the feed stream 10 into a section 106, 108 of the distillation tower 104, 204. As previously discussed in the instant application, the feed stream 10 is introduced into one of the sections 106, 108 via line 12. The method may also include separating 501 the feed stream 10 in the lower section 106 into the enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream and the freezing zone vapor stream at a temperature and pressure at which no solid forms. The lower section 106 operates as previously discussed in the instant application. Additionally, the method may include contacting 502 the freezing zone vapor stream in the middle controlled freeze zone section 108 with the freezing zone liquid stream at a temperature and pressure at which the freezing zone vapor stream forms the solid and the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream. The middle controlled freeze zone section 108 operates as previously discussed in the instant application. Moreover, the method may include directly applying heat 503 to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 and destabilizing and/or preventing 504 adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall 46 with the heating mechanism 36, 136. The heating mechanism 36, 136 operates as previously discussed in the instant application.

[0110] The method may also include detecting a temperature of at least one of the heating mechanism 36, 136 and the controlled freeze zone wall 46. The temperature may be detected using the temperature sensor 142, 243 previously described. Information detected by the temperature sensor 142, 243 may be used as previously described.

[Oil i ] The method may include maintaining an upper section 110. The upper section 110 operates as previously discussed in the instant application. The method may also include separating the feed stream in the upper section 110 as previously discussed in the instant application.

[0112] The method may include stabilizing the distillation tower 104, 204 via a suitable operational action if large amounts of solid are destabilized and fall into the melt tray assembly 139. One example of a suitable operational action includes, but is not limited to, controlling the liquid level in the melt tray assembly 139. One example of controlling the liquid level in the melt tray assembly 139 is described in the application entitled "A Method and System of Maintaining a Liquid Level in a Distillation Tower" (USSN 61/912,959) by Jaime Valencia and filed on the same day as the instant application.

|0113] It is important to note that the steps depicted in Figure 8 are provided for illustrative purposes only and a particular step may not be required to perform the inventive methodology. The claims, and only the claims, define the inventive system and methodology. [0114] Disclosed aspects may be used in hydrocarbon management activities. As used herein, "hydrocarbon management" or "managing hydrocarbons" includes hydrocarbon extraction, hydrocarbon production, hydrocarbon exploration, identifying potential hydrocarbon resources, identifying well locations, determining well injection and/or extraction rates, identifying reservoir connectivity, acquiring, disposing of and/ or abandoning hydrocarbon resources, reviewing prior hydrocarbon management decisions, and any other hydrocarbon-related acts or activities. The term "hydrocarbon management" is also used for the injection or storage of hydrocarbons or CO2, for example the sequestration of CO2, such as reservoir evaluation, development planning, and reservoir management. The disclosed methodologies and techniques may be used in extracting hydrocarbons from a subsurface region and processing the hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons and contaminants may be extracted from a reservoir and processed. The hydrocarbons and contaminants may be processed, for example, in the distillation tower previously described. After the hydrocarbons and contaminants are processed, the hydrocarbons may be extracted from the processor, such as the distillation tower, and produced. The contaminants may be discharged into the Earth, etc. For example, as shown in Figure 8, the method for producing hydrocarbons may also include removing 505 the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream from the distillation tower; and producing 506 the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream extracted from the distillation tower. The initial hydrocarbon extraction from the reservoir may be accomplished by drilling a well using hydrocarbon drilling equipment. The equipment and techniques used to drill a well and/or extract these hydrocarbons are well known by those skilled in the relevant art. Other hydrocarbon extraction activities and, more generally, other hydrocarbon management activities, may be performed according to known principles.

[0115] As utilized herein, the terms "approximately," "about," "substantially," and similar terms are intended to have a broad meaning in harmony with the common and accepted usage by those of ordinary skill in the art to which the subject matter of this disclosure pertains. It should be understood by those of skill in the art who review this disclosure that these terms are intended to allow a description of certain features described and claimed without restricting the scope of these features to the precise numeral ranges provided. Accordingly, these terms should be interpreted as indicating that insubstantial or inconsequential modifications or alterations of the subject matter described are considered to be within the scope of the disclosure.

[0116] For the purpose of this disclosure, the term "coupled" means the joining of two members directly or indirectly to one another. Such joining may be stationary or moveable in nature. Such joining may be achieved with the two members or the two members and any additional intermediate members being integrally formed as a single unitary body with one another or with the two members or the two members and any additional intermediate members being attached to one another. Such joining may be permanent in nature or may be removable or releasable in nature.

|Θ117] It should be understood that numerous changes, modifications, and alternatives to the preceding disclosure can be made without departing from the scope of the disclosure. The preceding description, therefore, is not meant to limit the scope of the disclosure. Rather, the scope of the disclosure is to be determined only by the appended claims and their equivalents. It is also contemplated that structures and features in the present examples can be altered, rearranged, substituted, deleted, duplicated, combined, or added to each other.

[0118] The articles "the", "a" and "an" are not necessarily limited to mean only one, but rather are inclusive and open ended so as to include, optionally, multiple such elements.

Claims

CLAIMS What is claimed is:
1. A method for separating a feed stream in a distillation tower comprising:
introducing a feed stream into one of a stripper section and a controlled freeze zone section of a distillation tower, the feed stream comprising a hydrocarbon and a contaminant; separating the feed stream in the stripper section into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream, comprising the contaminant, and a freezing zone vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which no solid forms;
contacting the freezing zone vapor stream in the controlled freeze zone section with a freezing zone liquid stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which a solid, comprising the contaminant, and a hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, form;
directly applying heat to a controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section with a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of the controlled freeze zone wall and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall; and
at least one of destabilizing and preventing adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein applying heat includes heating separate sections of the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism.
3. The method of any one of claim 1-2, wherein applying heat includes heating at least one of a lower section of the controlled freeze zone section and an upper section of the controlled freeze zone section.
4. The method of any one of claim 1-3, wherein the heating mechanism comprises one of (a) a coil containing a fluid and (b) an electrical conductor.
5. The method of any one of claim 1-4, further comprising detecting a temperature of the heating mechanism with a temperature sensor that is adjacent to the heating mechanism and coupled to at least one of the controlled freeze zone internal surface and the controlled freeze zone external surface.
6. The method of any one of claim 1-5, further comprising melting or vaporizing the solid in at least one of a lower section of the controlled freeze zone section and an upper section of the controlled freeze zone section.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein applying heat includes heating the at least one of the lower section and the upper section of the controlled freeze zone section, wherein the lower section directly abuts and is separate from the upper section of the controlled freeze zone section and wherein the upper section directly abuts and is separate from the lower section of the controlled freeze zone section.
8. The method of any one of claim 1-7, further comprising producing the freezing zone liquid stream in a rectifier section of the distillation tower at a temperature and pressure at which substantially no solid forms.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein at least one of the stripping section, the controlled freeze zone section and the rectifier section are in a first vessel and another of the at least one of the stripping section, the controlled freeze zone section and the rectifier section are in a second vessel that is separate from the first vessel.
10. A distillation tower that separates a contaminant in a feed stream from a hydrocarbon in the feed stream, the distillation tower comprising:
a stripper section constructed and arranged to separate a feed stream, comprising a contaminant and a hydrocarbon, into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream, comprising the contaminant, and a freezing zone vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which no solids form; and
a controlled freeze zone section comprising:
a melt tray assembly at a bottom section of the controlled freeze zone section that is constructed and arranged to melt a solid, comprising the contaminant, formed in the controlled freeze zone section;
a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of a controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall that at least one of destabilizes and prevents adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall, wherein the heating mechanism is in an upper section of the controlled freeze zone section that directly abuts and is separate from the bottom section.
11. The distillation tower of claim 10, wherein the heating mechanism comprises one of (a) a coil containing a fluid and (b) an electrical conductor, and wherein the distillation tower further comprises a temperature sensor adjacent to the heating mechanism and coupled to the controlled freeze zone internal surface or the controlled freeze zone external surface.
12. The distillation tower of any one of claim 10-11 wherein the heating mechanism extends around an internal circumference of the controlled freeze zone internal surface or an external circumference of the controlled freeze zone external surface.
13. The distillation tower of any one of claim 10-12, wherein the heating mechanism comprises heating mechanisms, wherein each of the heating mechanisms is coupled to one of the controlled freeze zone internal surface and the controlled freeze zone external surface.
14. The distillation tower of any one of claim 10-13, wherein the heating mechanism comprises a plurality of heating mechanisms and wherein at least one of the plurality of heating mechanisms is connected to another one of the plurality of heating mechanism.
15. The distillation tower of any one of claim 10-14, further comprising a rectifier section at a temperature and pressure at which substantially no solid forms.
16. The distillation tower of claim 15, wherein at least one of the stripping section, the controlled freeze zone section and the rectifier section are in a first vessel and another of the at least one of the stripping section, the controlled freeze zone section and the rectifier section are in a second vessel that is separate from the first vessel.
17. The distillation tower of claim 16, wherein the stripping section and the controlled freeze zone section are in a first vessel and the rectifier section is in a second vessel that is separate from the first vessel.
18. A method for producing hydrocarbons comprising:
extracting a feed stream comprising a hydrocarbon and a contaminant from a reservoir;
introducing the feed stream into one of a stripper section and a controlled freeze zone section of a distillation tower; separating the feed stream in the stripper section into an enriched contaminant bottom liquid stream, comprising the contaminant, and a freezing zone vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which no solid forms;
contacting the freezing zone vapor stream in the controlled freeze zone section with a freezing zone liquid stream, comprising the hydrocarbon, at a temperature and pressure at which the freezing zone vapor stream forms a solid, comprising the contaminant, and a hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream, comprising the hydrocarbon;
directly applying heat to a controlled freeze zone wall of the controlled freeze zone section with a heating mechanism coupled to at least one of a controlled freeze zone internal surface of the controlled freeze zone wall and a controlled freeze zone external surface of the controlled freeze zone wall;
at least one of destabilizing and preventing adhesion of the solid to the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism;
removing the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream from the distillation tower; and producing the hydrocarbon-enriched vapor stream extracted from the distillation tower.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein applying heat includes heating separate sections of the controlled freeze zone wall with the heating mechanism.
20. The method of any one of claim 18-19, wherein applying heat includes heating at least one of a lower section of the controlled freeze zone section and an upper section of the controlled freeze zone section.
21. The method of any one of anyone of claim 18-20, wherein the heating mechanism comprises one of (a) a coil containing a fluid and (b) an electrical conductor.
22. The method of any one of anyone of claim 18-21, further comprising detecting a temperature of the heating mechanism with a temperature sensor that is adjacent to the heating mechanism and coupled to at least one of the controlled freeze zone internal surface and the controlled freeze zone external surface.
23. The method of any one of anyone of claim 18-22, further comprising melting or vaporizing the solid at in at least one of a lower section of the controlled freeze zone section and an upper section of the controlled freeze zone section.
24. The method of claim 23, wherein applying heat includes heating the at least one of the lower section and the upper section of the controlled freeze zone section, wherein the lower section directly abuts and is separate from the upper section of the controlled freeze zone section and wherein the upper section directly abuts and is separate from the lower section of the controlled freeze zone section.
25. The method of any one of claim 18-24, further comprising producing the freezing zone liquid stream in a rectifier section of the distillation tower at a temperature and pressure at which substantially no solid forms.
26. The method of claim 25, wherein at least one of the stripping section, the controlled freeze zone section and the rectifier section are in a first vessel and another of the at least one of the stripping section, the controlled freeze zone section and the rectifier section are in a second vessel that is separate from the first vessel.
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